Thursday, 8 November 2018
A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
Considering the Elm Street series is built on the idea of a disfigured nonce entering children's dreams to murder them, it's no surprise that the films have an elastic relationship with reality. Victims slip in and out of the dream realm to be prodded and abused by Robert Englund's increasingly flamboyant boogieman, while clairvoyant teens are able to build themselves super-identities out of the damned spirits haunting these planes. Formula firmly in place, A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master rambles around with a new set of young adults, mechanically embedding character specific dangers before callously offing them with bravura make-up effects.
The Dream Master's attempts to play with the Elm Street recipe are a mixed bag. Showing unwilling allies forcibly hurled into REM sleep to placate a psychic's night terrors neatly combines the anxiety of sequel survivors with a refresher on the forces opposing crispy Fred. That the film rushes to mangle these A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors leftovers (Patricia Arquette's steely psychic Kristen Parker is reduced to a one-note shrieker by her replacement Tuesday Knight) with very little ceremony leaves large sections of the film circling the drain. Eventually Dream Master settles on Lisa Wilcox's Alice, a lucid dreamer well-placed to turn the tables on Krueger.
Alice daydreams through the difficulties of her waking life, be that plucking up the courage to tell the school hunk how she feels about him or putting a drunken, abusive father in his place. Her blips of directed unreality invite another sense of uncertainty into the film, promising a variety of attack that never quite comes together. Although it's expected that scenes will bubble along with the looping chaos of nighttime fantasy, Renny Harlin's film dwells on the method and delivery of Freddy's assaults to the exclusion of anything else. By extending the murders, so the audience can luxuriate in the special effects, Dream Master trades shocks for revulsion, using Kreuger not as terrifying spectre but the wisecracking MC walking us through the latest prosthetic showcase. This imbalance is compounded by the gentleness and general likeability of Fred's newest victims. These young girls aren't attacking him or each other, they're just kids getting on with their lives. Their slaughter therefore registers as mean-spirited or, in at least one case, outright repulsive.